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Frequently Asked Questions About the Archives of Ontario  

Archives of Ontario Public Policy on Copyright and Terms of Use for Archival Materials


The Canadian Copyright Act gives a creator the exclusive right to reproduce, perform, or publish his/her work. The archival materials in the holdings of the Archives of Ontario all have creators.

The Archives of Ontario will make or, in certain cases, allow its customers to make one digital OR print copy of any archival material in its holdings for research or private study, unless donors or copyright holders have expressly prohibited copying or other restrictions apply (e.g. to preserve the archival materials).

The Archives of Ontario Library will make copies of single periodical articles, or of portions of books and other published works, for research or private study, in accordance with the Copyright Act.

The Copyright Act also applies to archival materials obtained through requests made under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

For uses other than research or private study, researchers must submit a Request for Permission to Publish, Exhibit or Broadcast form.

Different Types of Copyright and Access Restrictions

Different types of copyright access and restrictions may apply to archival materials. The following represents the most common types:

  • Restrictions placed on archival materials by the donor (Private Records).

    Some donors have placed restrictions on the release of their archival materials. They may request that the materials remain closed for a specific number of years, or that names in the documents can not be revealed in publication. In these cases, customers must obtain the donor's written permission before consulting and/or publishing the materials. These are just sample restrictions. Actual cases vary from donor to donor. However, even when there are no specific restrictions on private materials, customers must obtain the copyright owner’s written permission before publishing (except where copyright has expired). The Archives’ staff will assist you with this as much as available resources allow, but they can not always determine who holds copyright. When the copyright holder is not clearly known or locatable, the customer is responsible for determining who holds copyright and for locating the copyright owner.

  • Terms of Use for archival materials that are Crown Copyright (Government Records).

    The Archives administers crown copyright only for original materials in our collection. If we hold the original materials, we can grant permission to publish as long as the materials are properly cited and a Request for Permission to Publish, Exhibit or Broadcast form. has been submitted to the Archives. We do not administer Crown Copyright for other crown jurisdictions (e.g., Federal or from other Provinces). In those cases, you must go directly to the source.

    If we do not hold the original archival materials, we cannot grant permission to publish the materials in any type of media; electronic, paper or other kind. When the Archives does not hold the original materials to which Crown Copyright applies, and the researcher wishes to publish, the researcher must seek permission to do so from the organization/person where the original material is held. We can however, give the researcher one copy for personal or research purposes.

  • Expired Copyright

    Copyright doesn’t last forever. Once copyright has expired, customers can publish the archival materials freely and without condition with one exception; Crown works that are unpublished remain protected under copyright law in perpetuity.

    The following outlines some of the more common examples of when copyright expires:

    • Fifty years after the death of the author for literary works.

    • Fifty years after publication (i.e., after copies of the work have been made available to the public) for Crown records.

    • Fifty years after the creation of a sound recording.

    • When a photo was taken by the author on or before 31 December 1948.

    • Where the author of the photograph is a corporation in which the shares are widely held, copyright expires 50 years from the time the photograph is made.

    • Where the author of the photograph is a corporation in which the majority of voting shares are owned by a natural person who would have qualified as the author if there were no corporation, the term is the life of that person plus 50 years.

  • Restrictions placed on archival materials by the Copyright Act.

    All reproductions are subject to the Copyright Act of Canada. Customers are urged to consult the Copyright Act when the copyright issues raise questions. Please note: The Archives’ role is not to interpret the Act. Customers must be aware of how copyright law may apply to their research and consult the Act when questions arise. Please remember to leave enough lead time to research copyright ownership and obtain written permissions should the need arise. Also remember to keep a record of any “Permission to Publish” records that relate to the materials you publish.

Please note that the “Terms Governing Use” field in the Archives’ Descriptive Database (ADD) often has some general information on copyright.

The Following Conditions Apply to All Customers Who Copy Archival Materials Held by the Archives Of Ontario:

  1. Customers warrant that they will not use the Archives’ collection of archival materials in a manner that would infringe the rights of others. Nor will they distort, mutilate or otherwise modify or use the copyrighted work(s) in any way that will prejudice the honour or reputation or in any way violate the moral rights of the creator or author of the work(s). Any liability that may arise in the use of a copy of Archival material is assumed in full by the customer. The Archives accepts no responsibility for unauthorized use of collection material by customers.

  2. Customers can request reproductions of archival materials and make self-serve prints and digital images from the self-serve microfilm reels found in the reading room. Copies of all archival materials, whether from the online exhibits on our website or from our records, and whether in digital or paper format, can only be used for personal or research purposes. You are required to submit a Request for Permission to Publish, Exhibit or Broadcast form. for any copy(ies) that will be used for anything other than research and/or private study.

  3. Please be aware that you are solely responsible for any infringement of copyright in the use of reproductions or self serve copies of Archival materials, either from the microfilm printers or from the computers (in digital or paper format). The Archives of Ontario will not be held responsible for any copyright infringement.

  4. Reproductions made by the user do not represent an official version or a copy made with the endorsement of the Archives of Ontario. Reproductions will not be represented as a true copy of the original material unless certified as such by the Archivist of Ontario.

  5. Cameras may be used in the facility to obtain photographic copies of archival material. However, users must complete a Self-Serve Digital Copying Service Form to do so. These forms are available from the Reference staff.

  6. The Copyright owner, whether the Archives, a corporation or an individual should always be properly acknowledged if the material is used for anything other than private research or study. It is the sole responsibility of all researchers to ensure they have appropriate copyright clearance for any materials to be published.

  7. The Archives of Ontario provides access to archival material for personal research and private study purposes only. We make no representation or warranty, either express or implied, of any kind with respect to archival materials and do not vouch for or warrant the availability, accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any archival materials. Nor are we responsible for the content of any archival materials. Any reliance on the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of archival materials will be at your own risk.

  8. In no event shall the Archives of Ontario or Her Majesty the Queen in right of Ontario or any of their Ministers, employees or agents be liable for any liabilities, losses, costs, damages and expenses arising from or directly or indirectly related to your use of, or your inability to use, the archival materials or any part or service of it.

Dated: February 27th, 2012

The Archives of Ontario reserves the right to update these terms and conditions at any time. Users will be notified of updates on the Archives of Ontario website. Users who do not agree to updated terms and conditions may have their researcher’s card revoked at the sole discretion of the Archives of Ontario.